A Farewell to Arms / Ernest Hemingway / Ch-18


We had a lovely time that summer. When I could go out we rode in a carriage in the park. I remember the carriage, the horse going slowly, and up ahead the back of the driver with his varnished high hat, and Catherine Barkley sitting beside me. If we let our hands touch, just the side of my hand touching hers, we were excited. Afterward when I could get around on crutches we went to dinner at Biffi’s or the Gran Italia and sat at the tables outside on the floor of the galleria. The waiters came in and out and there were people going by and candles with shades on the tablecloths and after we decided that we liked the Gran Italia best, George, the head-waiter, saved us a table. He was a fine waiter and we let him order the meal while we looked at the people, and the great galleria in the dusk, and each other. We drank dry white capri iced in a bucket; although we tried many of the other wines, fresa, barbera and the sweet white wines. They had no wine waiter because of the war and George would smile ashamedly when I asked about wines like fresa.

“If you imagine a country that makes a wine because it tastes like strawberries,” he said.

“Why shouldn’t it?” Catherine asked. “It sounds splendid.”

“You try it, lady,” said George, “if you want to. But let me bring a little bottle of margaux for the Tenente.”

“I’ll try it too, George.”

“Sir, I can’t recommend you to. It doesn’t even taste like strawberries.”

“It might,” said Catherine. “It would be wonderful if it did.”

“I’ll bring it,” said George, “and when the Lady is satisfied I’ll take it away.”

It was not much of a wine. As he said, it did not even taste like strawberries. We went back to capri. One evening I was short of money and George loaned me a hundred lire. “That’s all right, Tenente,” he said. “I know how it is. I know how a man gets short. If you or the lady need money I’ve always got money.”

After dinner we walked through the galleria, past the other restaurants and the shops with their steel shutters down, and stopped at the little place where they sold sandwiches; ham and lettuce sandwiches and anchovy sandwiches made of very tiny brown glazed rolls and only about as long as your finger. They were to eat in the night when we were hungry. Then we got into an open carriage outside the galleria in front of the cathedral and rode to the hospital. At the door of the hospital the porter came out to help with the crutches. I paid the driver, and then we rode upstairs in the elevator. Catherine got off at the lower floor where the nurses lived and I went on up and went down the hall on crutches to my room; sometimes I undressed and got into bed and sometimes I sat out on the balcony with my leg up on another chair and watched the swallows over the roofs and waited for Catherine. When she came upstairs it was as though she had been away on a long trip and I went along the hall with her on the crutches and carried the basins and waited outside the doors, or went in with her; it depending on whether they were friends of ours or not, and when she had done all there was to be done we sat out on the balcony outside my room. Afterward I went to bed and when they were all asleep and she was sure they would not call she came in. I loved to take her hair down and she sat on the bed and kept very still, except suddenly she would dip down to kiss me while I was doing it, and I would take out the pins and lay them on the sheet and it would be loose and I would watch her while she kept very still and then take out the last two pins and it would all come down and she would drop her head and we would both be inside of it, and it was the feeling of inside a tent or behind a falls.

She had wonderfully beautiful hair and I would lie sometimes and watch her twisting it up in the light that came in the open door and it shone even in the night as water shines sometimes just before it is really daylight. She had a lovely face and body and lovely smooth skin too. We would be lying together and I would touch her cheeks and her forehead and under her eyes and her chin and throat with the tips of my fingers and say, “Smooth as piano keys,” and she would stroke my chin with her finger and say, “Smooth as emery paper and very hard on piano keys.”

“Is it rough?”

“No, darling. I was just making fun of you.”

It was lovely in the nights and if we could only touch each other we were happy. Besides all the big times we had many small ways of making love and we tried putting thoughts in the other one’s head while we were in different rooms. It seemed to work sometimes but that was probably because we were thinking the same thing anyway.

We said to each other that we were married the first day she had come to the hospital and we counted months from our wedding day. I wanted to be really married but Catherine said that if we were they would send her away and if we merely started on the formalities they would watch her and would break us up. We would have to be married under Italian law and the formalities were terrific. I wanted us to be married really because I worried about having a child if I thought about it, but we pretended to ourselves we were married and did not worry much and I suppose I enjoyed not being married, really. I know one night we talked about it and Catherine said, “But, darling, they’d send me away.”

“Maybe they wouldn’t.”

“They would. They’d send me home and then we would be apart until after the war.”

“I’d come on leave.”

“You couldn’t get to Scotland and back on a leave. Besides, I won’t leave you. What good would it do to marry now? We’re really married. I couldn’t be any more married.”

“I only wanted to for you.”

“There isn’t any me. I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me.”

“I thought girls always wanted to be married.”

“They do. But, darling, I am married. I’m married to you. Don’t I make you a good wife?”

“You’re a lovely wife.”

“You see, darling, I had one experience of waiting to be married.”

“I don’t want to hear about it.”

“You know I don’t love any one but you. You shouldn’t mind because some one else loved me.”

“I do.”

“You shouldn’t be jealous of some one who’s dead when you have everything.”

“No, but I don’t want to hear about it.”

“Poor darling. And I know you’ve been with all kinds of girls and it doesn’t matter to me.”

“Couldn’t we be married privately some way? Then if anything happened to me or if you had a child.”

“There’s no way to be married except by church or state. We are married privately. You see, darling, it would mean everything to me if I had any religion. But I haven’t any religion.”

“You gave me the Saint Anthony.”

“That was for luck. Some one gave it to me.”

“Then nothing worries you?”

“Only being sent away from you. You’re my religion. You’re all I’ve got.”

“All right. But I’ll marry you the day you say.”

“Don’t talk as though you had to make an honest woman of me, darling. I’m a very honest woman. You can’t be ashamed of something if you’re only happy and proud of it. Aren’t you happy?”

“But you won’t ever leave me for some one else.”

“No, darling. I won’t ever leave you for some one else. I suppose all sorts of dreadful things will happen to us. But you don’t have to worry about that.”

“I don’t. But I love you so much and you did love some one else before.”

“And what happened to him?”

“He died.”

“Yes and if he hadn’t I wouldn’t have met you. I’m not unfaithful, darling. I’ve plenty of faults but I’m very faithful. You’ll be sick of me I’ll be so faithful.”

“I’ll have to go back to the front pretty soon.”

“We won’t think about that until you go. You see I’m happy, darling, and we have a lovely time. I haven’t been happy for a long time and when I met you perhaps I was nearly crazy. Perhaps I was crazy. But now we’re happy and we love each other. Do let’s please just be happy. You are happy, aren’t you? Is there anything I do you don’t like? Can I do anything to please you? Would you like me to take down my hair? Do you want to play?”

“Yes and come to bed.”

“All right. I’ll go and see the patients first.”

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